BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
The Liberal government continues to make empty promises and vague commitments while taking no real action to protect our northern communities.
The Liberals have recently boasted about their increase in spending for continental defence and upgrading the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) radar and surveillance systems. This announcement promised $4.9 billion over the next six years and $38.6 billion until 2042.
This promise comes after years of the United States asking Canada to start pulling their weight in defence spending. Well, it isn’t only the Americans asking for Canada to do their part anymore.
While attending the 2022 NATO summit in June, Justin Trudeau faced pressure from the 30-member alliance of Western countries to increase military spending. NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said he expects Canada to keep their promise and increase its defence spending to two per cent of GDP. Canada has been under-delivering on this promise since 2014. Not only are the Liberals failing to deliver at the global scale, but they are also failing to deliver for our northern communities.
Canada’s North has become especially important due to the developing security uncertainty around the globe. The northern oremiers have been attending summits to spread awareness of the threats they are facing. On July 26 Yukon Premier, Sandy Silver, spoke at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Summit, in a session titled Economic Development Challenges in a Volatile Arctic:
“If arctic sovereignty is not around anymore, then we’re all in jeopardy. You know, it took us 25 years to get our [Canadian] Rangers in the North new rifles … we have nuclear technology from other countries in our circumpolar region, so, we’ve been on a kind of a little bit of a traveling roadshow about the importance of sovereign communities with our premiers.”
The Trudeau government has dragged its feet for seven years on NORAD modernization and protecting our arctic. This funding announcement has no real timeline, it only allows them to drag their feet for another 20 years.
Earlier in July all the premiers met in Victoria, where Silver also led discussions about the Arctic. He explained that northern communities are the “eyes and the ears” when it comes to providing services on “non-wartime or peacetime” fronts. “To me, that’s a real overlap between a national program and an Arctic program,” he said. “They need more support, now more than ever, as we see aggressions from Russia in Ukraine.”
Aurel Braun, a political science professor at the University of Toronto said, “the question will be, why is Canada, one of the wealthiest countries on the planet … not improving our ability to protect our sovereignty. Right now, what we are contributing is not enough.”
The Liberal government talks about wanting to preserve and strengthen Arctic security and sovereignty, but their lack of action speaks way louder than their words. Like Premier Silver said, “I keep on explaining arctic sovereignty and arctic security like the insulation in your attic: you don’t know it’s there until it’s gone.”